by Ovidiu Brazdau
The Awakening Journeys is an in-depth psychological approach to the process of becoming conscious, which incorporates various types of Waking Up experiences into a wider psychological perspective, allowing us to better understand the journeys of transformation.
I tried to see what the main types of awakening experiences are, and how people habituate these openings into their psychological configuration. This approach evolved naturally as a conceptual necessity for the research on the conscious experience, during the development of the Consciousness Quotient and the Consciousness Quotient Inventory (CQ-i).
Table of contents
II. SOME REFLECTIONS ON DEVELOPMENTAL THEORIES
III. BASIC PRINCIPLES OF AWAKENING/OPENING JOURNEYS
IV. AWAKENING JOURNEYS
. Awakening from the collective culture/civilization hypnosis
. The “I am” experience: Activation of the witnessing awareness
. Conscious embodiment – the reconnection with the body energy and body perceptions
. Awakening to the energy flows
. Vibrational awakenings: from erotic to ecstatic to enstatic
. Interconnectedness awakening – the shift from individual to collective awareness
. Awakening the heart and the experience of unconditional love as deep resonance
. Awakening of the multidimensional awareness
. Consciously using non-conceptual perspective lenses to create a framework for experiences
. Flow awareness and the modulation of life events
. Merging of the inner mental space with the real physical space: inner eye vision
. Entheogenic awakenings
. Other awakening journeys (ongoing research)
. – Awakening the voice
. – The overview effect
. – Space awareness (spaciousness, spatial/depth perception)
. – Awakening the passion of being (awakened aliveness)
. – Spiritual awakening
. – Embracing the curiosity for life
Awakening Journeys and Inner Growth Journeys are two components of a new perspective that I am developing, the Psychology of Becoming Conscious. This is an attempt to use a unified conceptual framework to understand two complementary developmental paths, namely, Growing Up and Waking Up. The Growing Up path is about learning to harmonize our “Self”, while the Waking Up path is about adding new depths and facets to our conscious experience of “Being-Wide-Awake”.
Awakening Journeys happen by “deepening the connection” to ourselves and life, by refining our conscious experience and fully attending to various types of possibilities. I am introducing a conceptual link between these two approaches, using an expanded definition of the conscious experience.
To be conscious means to have a degree of witnessing awareness and a degree of freedom of choice when thinking, feeling, sensing and interacting with people and the environment. An important element of the conscious experience is intentionality, a mindset that allows a person to choose deliberately how to behave and what attitude to have. The state of being “more conscious” means having a higher degree of witnessing awareness and being less automatic in thinking-feeling-sensing, while acknowledging a higher degree of choice when initiating a behavior.
The previous paragraph reflects the operational definition of the conscious experience and it represents one of the key premises of the Consciousness Quotient Inventory (CQ-i). The witnessing perspective, which leads to the ability to observe the inside and outside worlds without engaging with them, is one of the key factors of the conscious experience.
I felt the need to introduce a new framework because the existing developmental frameworks do not include some of the openings I observed. I do have a deep appreciation for the work of all the developmental authors, especially Susanne Cook-Greuter, Ken Wilber and Terri O’Fallon, because their work has been foundational in the field. Their lifetime achievements have allowed a new generation of researchers to further advance their models and to keep what is good about them, while also improving on them and adding new developments.
Below are my reflections on existing developmental theories:
– In order to access a unitive conscious experience, a person does not have to reach a post-autonomous stage of ego development. Jeffery Martin, in his PhD paper “Ego Development Stage Does Not Predict Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience”, concludes that non-symbolic experiences are accessible across a wide range of developmental levels. This observation is consistent with my conclusions that the development of the Non-Conceptual Self (witnessing awareness mode) and the Conceptual Self (thinking, feeling, sensing, acting and interacting) happens in different ways.
– Ego development theories seem to look too much into the emotional-cognitive aspect, leaving the evolution of body awareness and body energy out of the system. This was corrected by Rosemarie Anderson in her paper “The Body and Embodiment in Human Development: Overview of the Body Map”. She describes the evolution of body awareness, comparing the stages of body awareness development side-by-side with the stages of ego development described by Susanne Cook-Greuter. That was a necessary update, meaning that the world of dancers, movers, contact improvisation and authentic dancers is now included.
– The idea of momentary states vs. permanent structural stages is one of the solid conclusions arrived at by developmental studies. However, after I entered the world of ayahuasca, LSD, magic mushrooms, alternative communities, world travelers, buskers and psy music festivals in nature, meeting some amazing people along the way, the actual models failed to provide me with an explanation of the psychology of some of these people. Their complexity went beyond the existing models I knew of. Because of this, I started to think less in terms of states/stages, and more about “awakeness skills”, “preferred ways of being/doing” or “preferred lifestyles”.
– A lack of description of the higher/later stages of development was due to the lack of research data and the unavailability of sufficient subjects. However, in recent years, things have changed. One example is the wider accessibility of various “technologies” with the ability to offer glimpses into transpersonal ways of functioning (e.g., holotropic breathing, ayahuasca, flotation tanks), resulting in an increased number of people waking up to life in various forms. Furthermore, secular awakenings are quite widespread (see interviews on Buddha at the Gas Pump or Conscious TV).
– There is a global energy shift toward a better harmony, resulting in increasing cases of kundalini/pranotthana experiences in people with no interest in classical spirituality, and these transformations need to be incorporated into psychological developmental models. It is not just about embodiment; it is about shifts in global energy, which is why psychology and psychosomatics need new concepts. Otherwise, the “light workers” will continue to misguide people.
– A lack of psychological modeling for transformational journeys is leading to the continuation of some of the most accepted-but-criminal behavior in psychiatry: labeling people undergoing temporary experiences of deep transformation with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and blocking their transformation with long-term drug therapy. That is totally unacceptable in my opinion. The idea that some of these moments are “spiritual emergencies” and that some of them are just psychotic moments is also not good. Yes, if it happens to people at post-conventional stages, then they can be emergencies. But it is the same process of collective healing, even for people who are not lucky enough to be in post-modern environments. If it happens in New York to a person living in Manhattan with post-modern friends, then it is a spiritual emergency; if it happens in a village in Romania to a person from a traditional Christian orthodox family, then it is schizophrenia, or something even worse, like possession by some kind of devil.
I think that the idea of the collective healing of collective traumas needs to be included in developmental theories. It is psychology that must offer new models for understanding these transformative experiences and put them in the right psycho-social context.
There are various types of “openings” which can be described as “awakenings”. I prefer to use both the terms opening and awakening simultaneously to describe these experiences. Technically, the awakening is an opening to new ways of functioning. In time, if this new opening is cultivated and consciously nurtured, it becomes an awakeness skill. In other words, it habituates, supported by the neuroplasticity of the brain. After these neuroplasticity processes take place, the person can use this skill without investing so much of their attention in it and it becomes automated, thus creating the conditions for the next step in evolution.
Inspired by Susanne Cook-Greuter”s descriptions of the principles of vertical ego development (growing up journeys), below is my proposal for the principles of the waking up journeys:
- Awakening journeys are a continuum of openings and insights about the functioning of life and nature. Awakenings are subjective discoveries about the natural functioning of the various systems that make us up.
Each awakening is a transformative experience, felt as a transition toward a more complex and deeper awareness.
- Awakenings are natural evolutionary processes, each one making a specific contribution to the collective self-reflection process.
- People all over the world have the same types of “openings/awakenings”, with a subjective flavor added by their preferred frames of reference used for perceiving-feeling-thinking-sensing-interacting. It is the collective evolution that is reflected in individual evolution.
- Each person creates meaning out of this natural opening, based on their individual/group worldview. The individual’s interpretation of these natural evolutionary processes is biased by their meaning-making structure due the inherent limitations of the language in each framework (spiritual, philosophical, religious, pseudoscientific, scientific, etc.).
- Awakenings happen either sequentially or, sometimes, simultaneously.
- Each opening has various depths.
- Awakenings can happen in individuals living with various ego development configurations. As the ego becomes more flexible, awakenings are experienced in their essentiality at post-conventional stages. Awakeness/Presence skills (non-symbolic, non-conceptual skills) are available at all stages of ego development.
- Usually, there is no such thing as definitive awakening after one experience (even if it lasts weeks, months or years). Each awakening system triggers a deeper understanding of other systems, until multidimensional awakeness skills are acquired and all the layers are harmonized and integrated in a simultaneous, multidimensional conscious life.
- Each awakening provides a new set of conscious awareness skills. Some people just enjoy life with the new awakeness style, without going further in their explorations.
- Each awakening takes time to integrate, anywhere between a few years and some decades. After integration, the new conscious awareness skills lead to lifestyle changes and new awakeness styles.
* Engaging in frequent transformative experiences facilitated by entheogens without allowing time for integration may not be a good option. E.g., one strong ayahuasca experience needs at least half a year/one year to integrate due to its cascade effect, from easy-to-observe changes in the first weeks, to deep and subtle changes in the months and years following the experience.
- There are various opening experiences that occur spontaneously during life, lasting from a few seconds to a few hours, but people usually lack the education to recognize and cultivate them (when they are very intense they are considered peak experiences or altered states of consciousness).
- New awakenings can happen even if previous openings have not been habitualized.
- Some evolutionary processes can happen in dramatic ways, which are quite shocking for the people around, and the societal reaction is to label these transformational moments as psychosis, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and to stop the transformation process from taking place using long term medication.
- Nature explores evolutionary processes in various ways; some newborns already have certain new evolutionary features and society lacks the educational tools to take care of these children (e.g., autism).
- Sometimes, when the collective energy changes, individuals sensitive to collective flows receive an upgrade in configuration, and this is felt as an awakening.
* I presume that this happens all the time as there are continuous waves of change, but being aware of some of these upgrades as they happen is quite amazing. Some people tend to interpret this process as the “downloading” of information, as “messages” or as “divine missions”.
16. Awakenings can be learned, cultivated and invited in our lives, and habituated through practice. They are not necessarily the gift of any god or guru. Perhaps they are a gift of Life, but who knows. We just need to allow ourselves to be transformed in new ways. of being.
Each of the transformative experiences I describe in this section have different degrees of depths and various ways of happening. Some of them can happen together, depending on each person. I see many connections between the transformative experiences and the stages of evolution provided by developmental theories, but a global analysis of where each awakeness skill belongs, and to what stage, does not quite seem possible for me at this point in life, due to the complexities of some types of awakening.
This is an experience that happens when people start to become autonomous and to form their personal system of values. In other words, it is an awakening from cultural hypnosis, starting from becoming conscious of the cultural consensual reality and ending in seeing how culture itself is the consensual reality.
I have met people who have switched from one cultural system (e.g., corporate style) to an alternative community, without realizing per se how culture itself can shift their experience. They just changed from an unpleasant environment to one more suited for their way of life. This is a good step; it is better than living a life in a cultural system they don’t resonate with. Choosing a preferred way of living, a preferred cultural environment, is a necessary decision. A good awakeness skill would be the ability to consciously select the inner shape we should take depending on each environment to which we choose to adapt.
Sometimes, this awakening can reinforce the ego by providing the “I am special” energy, but this is a good inflation in my opinion; it is just a step that provides energy for further transformations.
This experience is about disconnecting from the mind-ego, about discovering a new way of “being” instead of “doing/thinking/feeling/sensing”. It is the experience generated upon the activation of witnessing awareness and when the state of being aware of one’s awareness becomes available. Accompanied by a great feeling of interconnectedness, this type of non-symbolic experience is what people usually talk about as “enlightenment”; it is the base structure for unitive experiences.
The activation of the witnessing awareness is sometimes preceded by a critical experience of “ego death”. However, in time, this “death” can be considered as a “relaxation”, and moving the point of reference from mind to presence helps a lot. What is dying is a rigid structure, and the lesson I learned after this awakening was that of allowing myself to be more and more fluid, more “liquid”. In fact, after some years, I realized that these two systems, Self-Identity and Inner Growth, are just two parts of a self-regulating mechanism: one which maintains the form-structure, and one which pushes for transformation.
In my opinion, what happens in this experience is a shift of attention, from being permanently immersed in experiences, to diffuse-global attention, then to a combination of attention styles, available simultaneously. It is a sort of opening that splits the attention stream to a more contextual presence.
After I first experienced it in February 2013, it was fully active for some months, but then I began to lose it from time to time, becoming absorbed in some of the stuff I was doing or thinking. It became permanent after eight months, with quite an interesting visual. I was relaxing in bed when a snake emerged from somewhere in the subtle space in front of me, entered into me and my spine, shook there a bit, before melting into the spine. Since that moment, the inner witness has been here. Having said that, I think it was last year, I was meditating a little on the balcony when I felt something like a snake flying away from my spine. However, I have not been paying so much attention to the visual imagery in recent years; I know it is simply the mind working by itself, so I am unable to say whether or not it was the same snake. I rarely have visuals involving snakes and I rarely encounter real snakes, but there are a lot of movies and visuals concerning this process in the collective mythology.
Since then, I have had the ability to be absorbed in anything without losing the presence (the awareness of some parts of awareness being absorbed); these two flows are just two different streams of information happening simultaneously.
Mindfulness techniques are a good way of taking steps in this direction, and offer a new point of reference by accepting all that is in a non-judgmental way. Having said that, mindfulness, as I have encountered it in Western countries, provides rather a sort of self-reflection than a real witnessing (aware of awareness) activation.
Neo-Advaita/nondual movements also provide good training in this kind of experience. However, the ego is necessary for us to be able to function. In time, a person can learn not to use a rigid ego structure, but to keep a balance between the stability and the flexibility of the ego, instead of “abandoning” the ego. What I have observed in these Neo-Advaita/nondual movements is the preaching style of certain Western spiritual teachers, especially the style of talking to their audience using phrases such as “you will feel, you feel, you experience”. These teachers talk about their personal experiences as though they were general experiences. Some teachers seem to lack a basic awareness of their language, being totally immersed in the “I know – You don’t know” guru-ness setup. However, they do a lot of good work with people who need this break from a fixed ego, for a while.
I want to mention here an important event in my life that gave a new meaning to this experience. In 2014, one year after the activation of the witnessing awareness, I took a strong dose of LSD in a nice environment near a forest. It was a night-morning experience, which showed me a new way of being that I had never before imagined was possible. The sunrise became The Sun Rise, which was happening not only for me but for the entire human species, in a timeline of now. Every sunrise from our evolution as a species, condensed into the present Sun Rise at that moment. Now, that was a dense Being moment. This experience showed me how naive I was to think that the “I am” part of our psyche is somehow from the same story as the ego. It was sort of as if I thought that, if the ego was a particle, then the non-ego was a sort of non-particle. But I was wrong: the non-conceptual self is a field, an evolving wave, with the incredible ability to bend, dance, flow, connect, interact… I realized that the “I am”, or white light, or what some call Paramashiva, seems to be in fact a full universe, not just white light. There are things happening, there are patterns, there are structures, and they are evolving… we just need to adapt our eyes so that the intense density of life-light will not blind us.
This experience is a natural part of inner growth, experienced as an “awakening” by those who do not connect too much with their bodies in their life. A good name for this experience, which is already in use and I like it, is “conscious embodiment”.
Some of my acquaintances have become massage therapists in order to consciously connect with the body and to expand their body awareness. For me, this experience was brought about by going to Feldenkrais workshops and contact improvisation courses and jams. It took me about two-three years to fluidify the body and to develop satisfactory body awareness.
What I discovered was a world of impressive expressivity; everything related to my body changed. As a result of these practices, the body awareness just opened up and I became aware of how the psychological process of letting go and the relaxation of the body happen together. This opening also gave me a new awareness of what food the body requires at different times, depending on the inner experiences.
Now, this opening looks like the easiest way to start out on the inner growth journey. Going beyond the ego is not an easy choice, but reconnecting with one’s body awareness is such an easy option (I recently encountered the term bodyfulness, as in mindfulness). However, it was quite a shock for me to discover that a lot of the professional movers and dancers that I was meeting seemed to behave as if this body awareness were a profession, not an amazing opening with the potential to lead to wonderful psychosomatic releases.
I would like to mention a few explorers of this experience who have amazing insights: Janet Adler and Andrea Olsen. Here is a description from Scott Kiloby:
“An awakening experience itself is merely the first step. It takes a while for the body to catch up…
This exploration became so intimate, tender and gentle, like falling in love with every sensation and every thought about the body. A complete surrender to all of that as it arose. I would gently feel into the body all over all the time, throughout the day. It truly became a love affair. I started to see that all my life I had been looking for attention, love and everything else outside of myself. I was just looking for something to change how I felt, for someone to love my body, my experience. I realized that this is my job, not someone else’s. Looking for that outside myself is next to impossible. And it’s so indirect and inefficient to think that something outside of me will comfort and love my experience. It’s up to me to do that.”
This experience is sometimes related to body awakening, but I have seen people who are connected with energies but less connected with their bodies… It is as though the energy activity is capturing most of their attention.
Kundalini awakening is a psychosomatic process that seeks a fluidified way of being. The most accurate description of the process that I have encountered is Jana Dixon’s Biology of Kundalini. Over the years, I have met a few people in this process who have helped me to understand that the process of energy activation has at least three parts.
The first part seems to be pranotthana, or the cleaning process, when the body is convulsing, moving uncontrollably or sometimes performing perfect yoga asanas or spontaneous mudras. From what I have observed, this process is quite difficult for people undergoing strong emotional traumas. It is a sort of automatic body purification.
The second part is when the energy begins to flow and becomes a drive to increase the connectedness of all the layers. The result is an increased frequency of being.
The third part is when energy has been flowing for a while and the person can increase the frequency of energy without losing energy by generating “heat” (energy movements or flows of energy). This is an experience often facilitated by the usage of exogenous DMT.
Some of the people I met were at various points on this journey: some decided that the pranotthana process was too hard to cope with, started taking antipsychotics and got stuck in the process; some found other ways to ignore the drive; while others completed the pranotthana journey, entered the kundalini free flow and transformed this energy into an energy of aliveness.
I have been practicing centering and deep meditation techniques for some time to explore the third part, and I can say that it is possible to enter the world of hyper-synchrony, to activate endogenous DMT production and to increase or decrease energy density at will. It is a bit like playing with fire, but is manageable. The good part about these exercises is that one’s sensitivity to energy fields during everyday activities remains high; indeed, I am usually able to remain centered in my own being even in the tensest of life situations.
The damaging aspect of using antipsychotics during energy awakening is that, for some people I met, the medicine did not stop the process, but simply blocked some of its features. I discovered this accidentally when I was dancing with someone at a contact improvisation jam. She had an extremely nice body contact energy and was super sensitive to touch. We melted our senses into an incredibly spontaneous and deep connection, even though we had never met or spoken to each other before; however, I later discovered that she was on antipsychotics. But wait, what? How could she be on antipsychotics, weren’t these drugs supposed to stop all of these kinds of energy manifestations? It looks like I was wrong. The antipsychotics just blocked her ability to consciously-cognitively manage the energy flow, but the energy still found ways to manifest. The process cannot be stopped, it just needs to be completed once it has started.
After we had discussed this a great deal, I found out that one of her issues was an inability to manage and work with her sexual energy, and that this energy was manifesting itself in various forms, radiating from her externally through a very deep and over-the-top sensuality. However, to her, the issues related to the increased sexuality were less important; the fear of “losing her mind” was stronger, which was why she decided to continue with the antipsychotics treatment, even if it meant delaying her energy management and experiencing intense sensuality with many of the men she encountered.
A solution to her issue would have been opening up to a new level for managing energies – re-routing her sexual energy from an outside to an inside orientation, internalizing her sexual desire and transforming this erotic energy into enstatic energy. This will be the next opening I will describe.
The most common transformation in this category is the transition from erotic-externally-directed energy into enstatic-internal-vibrating energy. It has been well described by many people, and is related to tantric traditions and certain Eastern practices such as brahmacharya. A contemporary resource that I like is available online at www.aypsite.org.
In my opinion, the transition from erotic to ecstatic to enstatic has to do with changing the ways the energy flows inside the energy body structures. However, transforming sexual energy into ecstatic energy is just the first step. The next step is to allow all the energy to vibrate enstatically inside oneself, and to allow this to happen just by increasing the “density” of the internal life flow, or life force (some people would say increasing the frequency). Allowing unconditional love seems to be an important step here.
This transformation is related with endogenous DMT, in my view. After a while, when the body energy has been fluidified, life can flow more easily and people can allow more things to happen simultaneously. This is felt as a permanent DMT experience (or awakened kundalini). It is all intense but, at the same time, everything flows smoothly. When there are no blockages, the energy flows naturally and the layers vibrate altogether more quickly and are more responsive to each other. The human being bends quickly to adapt to the events that are happening, and this ease is simultaneously happening in silence and in high ecstasy.
In other words, the silence becomes ecstatic&enstatic, but the ecstatic concept is no longer adequate; it is just vibrating life, sometimes generating ecstatic emotions, sometimes not.
This vibrating life manifests itself in two ways:
– first, when the ecstatic energy is used from time to time and is allowed to produce ecstatic emotions;
– second, when energy is configured in such a way that it generates a permanent high frequency, creating an enstatic-vibrating life most of the time. I am talking here about a “silent ecstasy”, not manifested in the sexual energy, or in the emotional energy, or in the mental energy.
The first way is well described in an interview by Jeff Warren with a Buddhist monk:
“What about the feelings of bliss and rapture? In the jhanas these are seen as part of a progression, aren’t they?”
He looked out the little window onto the muddy tracks behind the house, then chose his words carefully. “This happens when an object becomes an aesthetic object for you, when it feels like the most beautiful thing—you’re delighted, fascinated.
You have a strong emotional interest, like being in love. You pass a threshold where experience becomes so beautiful that there is nothing else you would rather be doing. Everything else fades away, even pain if you’re sitting uncomfortably. A lot of meditators get this. The object of your devotion can be anything—a vase, a piece of music. Once I was climbing up a hill and I entered an alpine garden of mosses and rock flowers and I got down on my knees and just gazed in wonderment.”
He stopped, a bit embarrassed. “This is a kind of bliss.”
“So how often does that happen for you?”
“It’s hard to say because it’s all a matter of degree. Maybe once a week or so. It began many years ago. I would be meditating and once in a while I would feel joy and delight, at being so totally engaged in the one thing. It was a kind of concentration where all energies—emotional, physical, intellectual—are centered upon one pointedness and sustained attention. I used to wonder how far I had proceeded along the jhanas. Whether I had reached level one or two or three. I don’t know how deep I’ve been, but to be honest I no longer concern myself with all that.” He waved his hands. “None of that is the point of the practice.”
“So what is the point?”
He looked at me with great sympathy and patience. “It’s not about the special effects, Jeff. Meditation is about increasing your awareness. I would say that after twenty-two years of practice the main ‘effect’ has been more presence of mind.” He stood up. “Go for a walk and really take a look around. You’ll see what I mean.”
The emotional bliss happens also when the object of delight is love-life itself, or some sort of aspect of “God”. This is a kind of permanent ecstasy, as encountered by devotional mystics such as Teresa of Avila, Francis of Assisi, the Indian mystic Ramakrishna or Saraha – the founder of Tantra.
My explorations showed me that it is possible to experience a high vibrational life, in the body, in relative silence and inner peace, without involving any significant energy manifestations. Like a multidimensional buzz in the energy body, just enjoying life, without manifesting feelings or any desire to actively share something by actions, emotions, feelings or thinking. The energy is active, but it is in a “static” condition. We can consciously increase the frequency, and this is when things become amazing.
To me, it is a vibrational harmony, beyond lovejoy, beyond ecstasy, beyond bliss (or deeper into the cause of bliss, it depends where we look from). To habitualize these pure vibrational ways of being, it takes more than the desire to be free, or the desire to be aware…
I would say the difference between the energy flowing and the vibrational experience is similar with the transition from cells-energy to atomic-energy. A new type of field. A new layer of reality, existing in simultaneity with all that is.
Maybe there is a word for this vibrational harmony: “satcitānanda”. And maybe the tool is “spanda”.
According to my observations, this is a major developmental shift, bringing with it extra clarity. This shift from individual experiences to collective experiences is an amazing awakening, and it can happen in all the layers: the physical, subtle, causal and non-conceptual layers.
It can happen in the physical layer – when people realize they are just a cell in a big planetary organism (as in the spiritual ecology movements); in the emotional layer – in the discovery of group emotions; in the cognitive layer – experiencing the “hive mind” and discovering “unconscious” group communication; and in the non-conceptual layers – experiencing the collective awareness.
It is perhaps the conscious connection to the collective mind that is the most frightening and hard to cope with. My way of adjusting was to realize that, in order to maintain the integrity, it was necessary to find and continuously sustain my own “frequency”; in other words, to remain centered in my own space while accessing bits from the collective information field. Some years ago, I met someone with this type of super-sensitivity, who was able to detect it almost every time I thought about her. This type of bonding is usually experienced in couples with good resonance between them, but the shift from “perceiving my partner” to “perceiving everyone” is quite a step, and there are only two ways to deal with it: reducing the sensitivity, or coping with it and finding a personal way of managing the information overflow from the collective.
I like the idea of the integral we space; a conference on this topic provided me with a lot of insights about how this collective feed can be approached in everyday activities.
This opening is usually felt as a big shift or as an awakening. Some women I met told me that they experienced this shift after the birth of their first child. Heart opening is well described in psychology and spirituality. I just want to add that for me, love is a deep and silent resonance with life, and experiencing full empathy is a skill that is worth developing very early on in one’s inner growth journey. The challenge of this opening is to keep the deep connection in all types of interactions, positive or negative, familial or non-familial. I would say that some of the preliminary steps for this opening require the development of a mature emotional intelligence.
Connecting through love feels to me like a deep resonance and intimacy with life. In “technical” terminology, unconditional love is maintaining a continuous perception of connection between equals. There are no masters and disciples in love, we are all equals in this layer of emotional connection.
This is about expanding witnessing awareness in order to reach a perspective from which witnessing is simultaneously experienced as presence inside each layer. In my experience, this was possible because I had practiced splitting attention across multiple layers while keeping my global attention active. Keeping this multidimensionality was only possible after I had managed to center myself, and here I do not mean centering in the heart, but in the space bubble measuring two meters in diameter, which includes everything from my body to my thoughts to the energy around me.
I suppose that seeing and experiencing this multidimensionality is only possible after the structure and content are aligned and vibrate in harmony. In Susanne Cook-Greuter’s ego development theory, that would correspond to developing beyond the fifth-person perspective. However, there is a limit to this nth perspective, in my opinion.
We are still limited to five or six elements together within our main focus; it all depends on how large the systems we are attending to are, and this depends on how centered we are.
I list this skill as a separate opening, because its acquisition dramatically changes the inner experience. I feel like a visual explanation is needed here, in order to describe this opening as an awakeness skill.
We are a region of space, a two-meter-diameter bubble where energy and matter is denser, and this is the space in which the body-emotion-mind connection happens. We can attend to and interact with emotions and ideas, but the body is not available for direct interaction. We can listen to the body, but cannot interact directly with it in the way we interact with ideas (this is good, of course, that we are not allowed to interfere directly with the evolutionary force of nature).
What we can do is either change the “causal” structure of experience, or change the content of experience. “Causal” structures form the framework of the experience, while these configurations form the “perspective”, which acts like a colored lens. We can change the perspective either by changing the lens color, or by changing the device we look through – glasses or telescope, for example.
The “causal” components of the perspective are space length (the length of the space we decide to use for the perspective), time length and styles of paying attention. All three elements form a specific lens color through which we look at the world, and this color generates our conscious experience.
We can instantly change these filters with almost zero consumption of attentional energy, just by using a visual. For example, we can increase the space around us from two meters to an expanded space, e.g., the size of the planet (some call it the overview effect, which is a good label in my opinion). But the fact remains that we are still denser in our local two-meter area of space. So, we can set the perspective to a planet-size frame of reference, but the content is still coming from a localized space measuring two meters in diameter. The result is a global view with local content.
We can just replace the two meter visual with the planet-sized visual and that is it. The experience changes due to this new frame of reference. Pieces of information in the two-meter bubble become entangled in a new way if a larger context is set for the experience.
In review: space and time set the frame of reference, and attentional styles select the flows of information.
Usually this is an unconscious process, but it can become conscious in the construct-aware stage of ego development.
Consciously using perspective mechanisms is an amazing skill and it makes things simpler. We can change the experience just using variations of these filters, with instantaneous results that require almost zero energy consumption.
I found this description in Susanne Cook-Greuter’s description of the unitive stage:
“Unitive perceivers can shift focus without effort and behold the whole simultaneously with its constituting variables. They operate within an expanded time frame which includes all of earth’s history and its future. Life is seen as a form of temporary and sometimes voluntary separation (Bodhisattva vow) from the creative ground to which it will eventually return. Though adults at the Unitive stage are aware of themselves as separate and unique embodiments, they also identify with all other living beings. The separation of self from others is experienced as an illusion, an invention to safeguard the ego’s need for permanence and self- importance and to defend against the fear of its death.”
I guess what I have described is how this quick shift can happen. Understanding this skill enables a person to be trained in it, rather than simply waiting to acquire it and hoping for some divine intervention. However, it all depends on how much we can allow the change to happen inside us as a result of this perspective switch. Shadow work should be undertaken before learning this skill, otherwise the person’s fears will block the process.
This awakeness skill is a combination between “systems thinking”, “systems dynamics” and an attentional schema focused on the dynamics of transformation. This is an awareness of life events that happen in a succession of small events and that intersect with other sets of events. In other words, this is about becoming aware that everything is connected, but that some things/events are more connected than others. I found this type of opening in relation with descriptions of wise men in Chinese history, where they say that the wise old man just looks at the natural flows of events and takes meaning from it. Well, this is a result of watching the flows of events unfolding. We can participate in these unfolding events with patience. Or, sometimes, when action is needed, we can invest our energy and modify a flow (by altering its speed, direction, intensity, etc.).
Since I began to look at the world as an intersection of flows and intermixing groups of events, life became much simpler. The preliminary stages of this opening start with observing “synchronicities”, but this is usually when positive things are happening. The less positive things are not seen as being in sync.
But, the fact is that everything is in sync all the time, and this sync is fractally expanding at every level, layer and depth of life.
What I have learned is that each of us has some way of contributing to life flows, and that the key is to carefully select the flows in which we participate. This includes flows of actions, thinking, feeling, interacting and being.
I Ching is an amazing piece of wisdom describing the life flows dynamics.
This is a result of the perspective that everything happening inside of me happens in a region of space measuring perhaps two meters in diameter, which contains my thinking, my body and my emotions. It all happens here.
When I meditate with the eyes closed, I continue to use my eyes, but in a different way. I keep the visual perception activated and focused on the space. When the senses are internalized and the point of viewing is this space, after a while, the eyes begin to work in sync and the vision from both eyes transforms into a centered vision. This center is located in the middle, in the region between the eyes. The inner eye vision activates when the entire brain is acting as a whole; I think this is the effect of the whole brain working in synchrony in some frequencies.
In my opinion, the inner eye vision has nothing to do with mystical realization; it is available through this simple training to interiorize one’s vision. Then, when both eyeflows synchronize, people can experience the inner space in a 3D-360 degree perspective, and this space is where things can happen. The inner eye vision seems to be the result of the synchronized perception of both eyes, generating a centered point of view in a region between the eyes.
What is happening in this space? After the inner eye starts to see, a wide range of inner experiences become available. In my experience, the content can be either inner projections/inner visions or physical perceptions.
With time, I realized that inner visions are just a visual way of thinking, conscious or unconscious, nothing more. Sometimes it is amazing, sometimes it is not.
However, the physical perceptions are quite amazing, because the area we inhabit is vortexing through space, the planet is moving around the sun, the sun is moving around center of the galaxy and the galaxy moving towards the Great Attractor. Our experience is static only because of our frame of reference. If I tune into the fundamental grid, or use various frames of reference, I find myself flowing a lot. Relevant to this topic are Walter Russell’s insights, cubic wave field theory and Hannah’s 3D graphics, which show how energy is vortexing through the cubic grid.
A few times I played around with the inner eye vision by mixing the inner-outer perceptions with energy perceptions. With my eyes closed and in sync, looking from the center, I moved one hand in front of my body and tried to attune the inner vision to the energy flowing in the space occupied by my hand. After a few rounds of tunings and by opening and closing the eyes, I could adapt the inner vision to the real 3D position of the hand. The inner vision “locked” onto the energy of my hand by recognizing its qualities.
The adjustment of the inner vision happened this way: I was scanning through the almost-dark field in which these light-like particles were moving, and then I asked where the hand was… and I let the attention move by itself, until… aha, it arrived at my hand. After that moment, I was able to recognize the hand as though it were a group of energy bubbles moving through space. After the “locking” happened, every time I tried to verify the 3D location of my fingers by opening the eyes, the 3D position of the finger in both the inner and outer space was identical. In this enhanced state of perception, everything physical looks like a fine shower of particles, some of which are grouped within flexible boundaries.
This exercise was easiest to perform in a dark setting, in a very relaxed state but with an activated kundalini.
People who live in dark environments for many days report similarly enhanced perceptions, so I guess it is related to melatonin and endogenous DMT production.
I have listed these separately, as they seem to be part of a different world of openings in comparison with “regular” awakenings. Each plant/substance has its own wisdom. The experiences I consider relevant for inner growth journeys are those mediated by ayahuasca, changa or DMT, LSD, mescaline and psilocybin. Moreover, the sacred use of ganja is also a good tool; it is like a driver, taking us where we want to go. Although there is endogenous DMT product happening in our body in various situations, experiences generated by the ingestion of ayahuasca/inhalation of DMT are different; they are much more intense and amazing.
A lot of people use the argument that awakening is possible without entheogens. Sure it is. But some special types of openings generated by entheogens have almost a zero chance of happening naturally. The informational wisdom in these plants is an added value for any explorer wanting to dive deeper into reality.
In my opinion, there are two ways of using entheogens wisely:
- As a tool for insights, to support inner growth journeys and to live a good life
- As friends and allies for inner explorations, for going where nobody has ever gone before.
It is a fact that in nature, we have plant friends who can open some doors. And it is a personal decision to step through those doors and to see new ways of functioning. And, after coming back from that configuration, it is our choice to decide whether any of the new discoveries are worth habituating in our daily life.
It has been quite a challenge to understand what has been going on with me after connections with ayahuasca and changa, but now I consider them to be allies for surfing the fundamental information structures of the universal wave, here on Earth.
Some other experiences and shifts that may be included as awakening journeys:
- Awakening the voice: connecting with the voice and using it to modulate the inner core of our beings and its relation to ourselves and others. This is very visible in some musicians and singers.
- The overview effect: seeing Earth from above, described by astronauts as an amazing shift in perspective. The term and concept “overview effect” were coined in 1987 by Frank White.
- Space awareness (spaciousness, spatial/depth perception): this is a shift in perceiving the physical space inside and outside, a transition to being connected with space as a deep and intimate experience, and maintaining a connection with the inner (body space) and outer space in the same time (as in a unitary mystical experience, but as a habituated style of perception).
- Awakening the passion of being (awakened aliveness): the journey toward allowing life energy to flow unbounded, having the pure heart as home, and having, as a result, highly coherent experiences of aliveness and lovejoy. Along with this activation comes the feeling of beauty generated by all that is, and this is a major shift in the energy body configuration.
- Spiritual awakening: this seems to be a combination of awakening experiences already included in this research, but all of them have this common theme – that the rigid previous structure has been dissolved, resulting in a powerful surge of energy/freedom that reconfigures the layers in various ways. By layers, I mean Physical Self, Energy Self, Information Self: (incl. cognition, attention, perspective), Non-conceptual Self, and their organization in a Global Self-identity. This experience happens usually as a dramatic way to get out of the conventional stages of ego-identity (getting out of the collective/cultural hypnosis), and individuals begin to see the beautiful inter-connectivity of all Life, beyond their previous frameworks.
- Embracing the curiosity for life: well, some people are highly curious, and if they embark on the journey toward understanding life, and pursue it diligently, the process brings amazing insights about all that we are, opening the mind toward what is essential in life, and adds awe as a strong flow in the energy body.
I hope this approach provides a useful explanatory map for navigating and understanding transformative experiences. The assumptions that I have presented here are the results of my experiential observations. I had to choose some preliminary labels for some of the phenomena I have observed, e.g., “non-conceptual perspective mechanisms”. Perhaps in the future, I will be able to find better ones.
Many thanks to all the people who shared their awakening experiences, to Cornelia Cacu, my fellow explorer, for her insights, and to Sadhna Sharma and Valita Jones for their support with editing the text.
References and notes
 “Three Selves on the Journey to Growing Up and Waking Up”, video interview with Ken Wilber available on https://www.soundstrue.com/products/the-psychotherapy-and-spirituality-summit
 Brazdau, O. (2015). The Consciousness Quotient: Construct Development and Content Validity Research. Elsevier Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 187, 244-249
 Brazdau, O., Ahuja, S. (2016). The Consciousness Quotient: Introducing the Conscious Experience as a Research Variable in Psychological Assessments. In P. S. Satsangi & S. Hameroff (Eds.), Consciousness: Integrating Eastern and Western Perspectives (pp. 187-217). New Delhi:, India: New Age Books
 Brazdau, O. (2014). Witnessing awareness and modes of cognitive awareness. A terminology proposal for the psychological assessment of witnessing and (meta)cognitive experiences. In Deepak Chopra (Ed.), Brain, Mind, Cosmos: The Nature of Our Existence and the Universe (Sages and Scientists Series Book 1) [Kindle edition].
 Brazdau, O. (2014). Witnessing awareness and modes of cognitive awareness. A terminology proposal for the psychological assessment of witnessing and (meta)cognitive experiences. In Deepak Chopra (Ed.), Brain, Mind, Cosmos: The Nature of Our Existence and the Universe (Sages and Scientists Series Book 1) [Kindle edition], www.amazon.com.
 Warren, J. (2007). The head trip: Adventures on the wheel of consciousness. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 314-315